NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A man has been charged with murder in the death of a Brooklyn professor, who sources say was attacked with a hammer inside his own home.
Police tape surrounded the house on Stratford Road in Ditmas Park where investigators said 66-year-old Jeremy Safran was found dead in his basement following a home invasion, while his wife and 18-year-old daughter were upstairs.
A neighbor across the street said she noticed a suspicious person in the yard just before 6 p.m. Monday and notified Safran's wife, who called 911.
"I text her, 'You have someone who went into your house,'" resident Doreen Giuliano told CBS2. "She said she couldn't find her husband. Then the cops were there in 30 seconds flat and they ran in, and that's when they found her husband."
Police said they found Safran unresponsive with trauma to his head and body. Sources told CBS2 he was beaten and stabbed to death.
Stunned neighbors said they gave police surveillance video showing a stranger in a black Lexus.
"He was parked over there and he got out. He was sitting there for a couple hours and then he was going in and out of the house it looks like," said resident James Petrillo. "I don't know when the guy caught him down there."
Police said they found 28-year-old Mirzo Atadzhanov inside a basement closet, covered in blood. He was charged with murder and burglary.
Investigators believe he snuck into the home through a rear basement window. When asked by reporters what happened, Atadzhanov replied, "I defend myself."
"My heart really goes out to the families," resident James Hill said. "They must have felt so helpless during this tragedy."
"Very quiet person, as long as we've been living here 24 years or so. My daughter used to babysit for his daughters," said resident Reginald Daniels.
"He's a great guy as far as I know," another neighbor said. "It's a tight-knit community here, a lot of our kids grew up together. It's just needless -- pointless, stupid. It's just a pointless waste of a life"
Safran was a professor of psychology and former co-chair of the Department of Psychology at The New School, which issued a statement saying it is "shocked and saddened to learn last night of the tragic death of Jeremy Safran."
"An internationally renowned psychotherapist, Jeremy was deeply respected and admired by The New School community and his colleagues throughout the psychology profession for his work on psychoanalytic theory and practice, as well as research on psychotherapy processes and outcomes," the school said. "We offer our deepest condolences to his family and will be offering support to his many friends and colleagues throughout the university community in the days ahead."
Police say the intrusion and attack appear random, but the motive remains unclear.
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